Over 40 LGBTQ Candidates Have Already Announced They’re Running For Office in Texas

Texas politics is about to have its queerest year ever: More than 40 LGBTQ candidates have announced their intention to run for office in 2018.

The count is 41 at the time of writing, although that estimate changes daily. OutSmart, a Houston-based LGBTQ magazine, listed the number of queer and trans candidates at 35 on Jan. 2. Just two days later, six more political aspirants had joined the ever-expanding pool.

Two LGBTQ candidates will be vying for the biggest job in Texas. INTO spoke with Jeffrey Payne, a Dallas gay bar owner and Hurricane Katrina survivor, after he threw his hat in the ring last July. Lupe Valdez stepped down from her position as Dallas County Sheriff, which she had held for 12 years, to enter the 2018 general election.

Should they win the Democratic Party nomination, they would face off against Gov. Greg Abbott. The Republican leader unsuccessfully attempted to force an anti-trans bathroom bill through the legislature in 2017.

The Texas Senate races include three LGBTQ candidates, all of whom would be the first openly queer or transgender person ever elected to the state’s upper legislative body. Houston’s Fran Watson will attempt to turn District 17 blue, while Mark Phariss aims to ride the Democratic wave from the November elections to a win in Plano’s District 8. Shannon McClendon is running as a Republican in District 25 ofDrippings Springs.

Phariss told INTO in December that LGBTQ people are overdue for a seat at the table in Texas politics.

“There are spokespeople in the Texas Senate for LGBTQ equality, but it’s time for there to be an LGBTQ person at the table in the Senate,” he claimed at the time. “They’re spending a lot of time on issues that are divisive and do not improve the lives of Texans one iota.”

The pool also includes 10 candidates for the Texas House of Representatives and one person running for the Texas Supreme Court.

These totals are unprecedented for the state. The Victory Fund endorsed 88 LGBTQ candidates across the country for the 2017 election cycle, although the organization claimed in an email that this figure doesn’t reflect every single one of last year’s political hopefuls. A handful of candidates came to the attention of the organization after their eventual victory.

But the state of Texas alone has already reached almost half of that incomplete estimate.

The political action committee, which is dedicated to helping LGBTQ candidates get elected to office, celebrated the momentous benchmark in a statement provided to INTO.

“Victory is excited that this is a historic year in Texasas it is around the country for LGBTQ candidates,” says its political director, Sean Meloy. “Victory has been in touch with many of the candidates and has already endorsed Gina Ortiz Jones for Congress. We look forward to getting many of these LGBTQ candidates elected in 2018.”

Local advocates for equality believe the queer tipping point in Texas politics will keep the state from repeating the anti-LGBTQ onslaught of the past year. More than 20 bills were put forward attacking queer and trans rights in 2017.

“I think for many, the motivation to run is in sync with the adage, ‘If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,’” says Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, in an email to INTO. “We have recently been witnessing a continuous assault on our rights and freedoms. It is only by raising our voices and securing our ‘place at the table’ that we can ensure our constitutional rights to equal protection under the law are preserved.”

This momentum was likely generated by the groundbreaking wins for LGBTQ candidates in last year’s races. At least 40 people were elected to office in the November special elections, including Danica Roem of the Virginia House of Delegates and Andrea Jenkins of the Minneapolis City Council.

Both were the first transgender politicians to ever be seated in their positions.

Conservatives Must Make Gays Scary Again, Says One of America’s Leading Homophobes

Linda Harvey thinks she knows how conservatives can win the culture war: by making gays scary again.

Harvey, who is president of the anti-LGBTQ advocacy group Mission America, sat down for an interview with fellow right-wing zealot Peter LaBarbera for an episode of her radio show. She asked LaBarbera, the man behind Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, how religious conservatives can “re-horrify people” about the LGBTQ community.

“How do we re-horrify people about the sin of homosexuality?” she inquired in a December broadcast, as previously reported by Right Wing Watch. “People are becoming so comfortable with this, even people on our side. We need to re-horrify them.”

Harvey also claimed that Queer-Straight Alliances in middle and high schools are fronts for “predators” to indoctrinate youth.

“I believe that the homosexual clubs in schools are just red flags for predators,” she continued. “I think that they exist there as an audience to continue to fast track kids into the lifestyle, network with adultsI mean, who knows what goes on there?”

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Mission America is one of the most outlandishly extreme groups among the religious right.

The group’s website claims opposing homosexuality is its “central focus,” referring to LGBTQ identity as a “chic cause celebre,” “tragic behavior,” and “evil.” In addition to blaming gay people for abortion, it calls the queer and trans community “the torch-carriers for a movement to destroy biblically-oriented Christianity and its positive influence on our culture.”

Of course, Mission America doesn’t stop there.

“Homosexuality will eventually be seen for the lie it is,” the group claims, “a lie against all that God created a person to be; a lie about how people are best to love and relate to one another; a lie of omission about the health hazards involved, the sinful origins of homosexual desire and the real possibility of change.”

Harvey herself has said that homosexuality is a “delusion,” compared LGBTQ people to Nazis, blamed queer activism for suicide among youth, and claimed the annual Day of Silence dishonors God.

Photos via Mission America

Doug Jones’ Openly Gay Son Throws Major Shade at Mike Pence As Father Sworn In

There’s an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, but this photo of Carson Jones at his father’s swearing-in ceremony speaks for itself.

Doug Jones officially became a member of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, taking his oath of office as Alabama’s first Democratic Senator in 25 years. Jones, who defeated anti-LGBTQ Republican Roy Moore in last month’s special election, was accompanied by longtime friend Joe Biden and son Carson, who recently opened up about his sexuality in an interview with INTO.

Also present was Mike Pence, who is pictured forlornly holding the Bible on which Jones placed his left hand. As the highest-ranking member of the Senate, it’s the vice president’s job to swear in elected representatives to the body.

But given that Pence’s boss backed Moore in the Alabama race, his stone face suggests anointing Jones was a thankless task.

Pence’s blank expression, however, was no match for what Carson Jones was serving. The 22-year-old is giving the vice president major side-eye in a picture posted to his Instagram account on Wednesday. A hashtag on the post (“#nocaptionneeded”) shows the vexed look was intentional.

##dougjones #swearingin #washingtondc #capitol #wemadeit #nocaptionneeded

A post shared by Carson Jones (@thedapperzookeeper) on

The post has received over 10,000 likes at the time of writing.

The younger Jones was unavailable to comment on the photo prior to press time, but the shade is unsurprising given the vice president’s long history of opposing LGBTQ rights.

As the governor of Indiana, Pencesigned into law a controversial billallowing people of faith to deny services to LGBTQ people based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Enacted in 2015, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was “fixed” when its passageled to a $60 million boycott of the state.

After President Donald Trump tapped Pence to be his second-in-command, he has continued to pursue anti-LGBTQ policies at the federal level.

Pencehas reportedly pushed Trump to sign an executive orderstrikingly similar to his widely unpopular RFRA bill. He was reportedly one of the most vocal proponents of a so-called “religious liberty” memorandumwhichwas tabled at the urgingof the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner.

The Commander-in-Chief once“joked” that the vice president, whomay or may not be a conversion therapy advocate, “wants to hang” all gay people in aNew Yorkerprofile.

Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Alex Jones Comes Quickly to Defend Trump’s D

If there’s one thing that’s been taking up too much room in the current news cycle, it’s oblique references to Donald Trump’s genitals. On Tuesday night, Trump tweeted about the size of his nuclear button in a way that would force Freud to massage his temples.

But there was one person who felt the references to Trump’s naughty bits were a bit *too* oblique: Alex Jones. In fact, he’s had it up to *points to hip* here!

On the Wednesday episode of The Alex Jones Show, Jones defended the size of the president’s penisyes, I’m typing this sentencefrom attacks in the *Sarah Palin voice* liberal media.

Jones said:

“Now the media went into conniption fits and the headlines from MSNBC are Trump’s sexual obsessions may destroy the earth. They’re the ones saying hey we got a bigger nuclear button than you, we got a bigger arsenal, more powerful, and it works. Nothing to do with the media trying to say the president has small genitals. And by the way he doesn’t even have small hands, and by the way that’s a cliche, and a wives’ tale, and not even true as well. Medical doctors will tell you it’s the feet size. But the point is that it’s more comparable. And that’s not even an exact metric.”

There’s a lot to unpack here! But, Jones really wants you to know that hands are the wrong penis-size-guessing metric! It’s definitely feet!

By the way, one 2002 scientific study disproved this theory.

I wouldn’t expect Alex Jones to have a good scientific grasp on anything given how he’s shown over and over again that he and science go together like oil and water.

Photo by Brooks Kraft/ Getty Images

Here’s How to Make the Mormon Church’s Recently Deceased President Gay in the Afterlife

A new website wants to show former Mormon leader Thomas Monson the “joys of homosexuality” from beyond the grave.

Monson passed away in his home on Tuesday after spending his last decade as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposing gay inclusion in its ranks. Under the 90-year-old’s tenure, the church led the campaign to overturn same-sex marriage in California and banned the children of same-sex couples from receiving baptism.

But a site called “All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay” believes Monson can be redeemed in the next life: It allows users to make his ghostly spirit queer.

“Sadly, many Mormons throughout history have died without having known the joys of homosexuality,” claims the webpage, which asks users to enter the name of their “favorite” dead Mormon. “With your help, these poor souls can be saved.”

Were someone to hypothetically enter Monson’s name into the system (note: as the author may have done) and click “Convert!”, the page promises he would be “gay for eternity.”

“There is no undo,” the website warns.

Although the notoriously private Mormon leader never publicly spoke out against homosexuality, Monson made his opposition to the LGBTQ community known behind closed doors. He claimed the November 2015 policy branding gay couples’ kids as “apostates” was “the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord,” as the Salt Lake Tribune reported this week.

Russell M. Nelson, who is believed to be in line to replace Monson, quoted those words in a January 2016 speech.

But that decision led to major blowback for the LDS church. More than 30 LGBTQ youth reportedly took their own lives in the three months after that decree was announced, while an estimated 1,500 members of the faith resigned in protest of the policy.

Although the Mormon church has taken steps to address the fallout (e.g., backing off its support for conversion therapy), it continues to outwardly oppose LGBTQ rights. In September 2017, church leaders filed an amicus brief in support of a Christian baker fighting for his right to discriminate against gay couples at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Now that the Court has protected the liberty of same-sex couples, it is equally important to protect the religious liberty of these conscientious objectors,” the LDS Church claimed in a joint statement with the National Association of Evangelicals, among other groups.

The Mormon church has also distanced itself from the Boy Scouts of America after it lifted a ban on gay troop leaders two years ago. Monson is a former Boy Scout.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Fake News Site Connected to Russian Government Refers to Transgender Soldiers as ‘Tranny Troops’

A news outlet connected to the Russian government has referred to trans members of the U.S. military using a transphobic slur.

The day before transgender people were allowed to enlist openly in the armed forces for the first time, the website Sputnik News referred to them as “tranny troops” a headline. The site posted an article titled “Tranny Troops: U.S. Military to Accept Transgender Recruits Beginning 2018” on Dec. 31.

“Tranny” is widely regarded as an offensive and derogatory term among members of the LGBTQ community, comparable to the word “faggot” for gay men.

Even more so, the word is a reminder of the disproportionate and often deadly violence to which trans and gender nonconforming individualsparticularly transgender womenare subjected. Trans people are more likely than any other segment of the U.S. population to be victims of a hate crime and are frequently referred to by that term during the assault.

The article itself isn’t an outright attack on trans enlistment, although a telling editorial choice betrays the outlet’s anti-LGBTQ bias.

Sputnik News refers to the Pentagon’s decision to comply with numerous court orders blocking President Trump’s transgender ban as a “capitulation.” In truth, the White House attempted several times to enforce the Commander-in-Chief’s proposed policy, which was first announced in a series of July tweets. The plan, however, was blocked in federal court four timeswith the administration losing each time.

After an emergency request to delay the January 2018 start date was denied, the administration said it would stop appealing the decisions.

“The Department of Defense has announced that it will be releasing an independent study of these issues in the coming weeks,” an anonymous official within the administration claimed in a statement. “So rather than litigate this interim appeal before that occurs, the administration has decided to wait for DOD’s study and will continue to defend the president’s lawful authority in District Court in the meantime.”

The president had previously ordered Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis to issue an implementation strategy putting the plan into effect by March 23.

A headline insulting transgender people, though, is unsurprising given the source of the article. Sputnik operates under the direct control of the Kremlin and the media organization was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last year to determine whether it had been disseminating Russian propaganda.

The website is known to publish fake news and conspiracy theories.

Sputnik’s bosses are no friend to the LGBTQ community, particularly trans people. The Kremlin banned transgender Russians from driving in 2015 as “part of a crackdown on people with mental health issues,” as The Independent reported. The government claimed trans people suffer from a “disorder,” making them ineligible for driver’s licenses.

The architect of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, Vitaly Milonov, proposed outing transgender travelers to the country in a 2017 interview with the newspaper Parlamentskaya Gazeta.

We’re Queer And Here For Now: On Being LGBTQ and Undocumented

When I was 15 and I’d discovered I was gay, the brand new Gay & Lesbian Alliance Club in my high school was a huge deal. I breathed a sigh of relief because it felt like security, like there was backup now, because there was a group of us and a group is a lot louder than just one little newly out lesbian voice. We were going to fight for marriage equality, we were going to stand up against injustice and prejudice, and we were going to sport cute rainbow gear while doing so.

But as I got older and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Club was far behind me, it became starkly clear that there was a line drawn between the LGBTQ community and the undocumented LGBTQ community.

When my friends and I turned 16, we all learned to drive, except they all got Driver’s Permits, and I didn’t. I wasn’t allowed.

When we turned 21 and wanted to go bar hopping, they got to just show up and walk right in while I risked the embarrassment of being turned down at the door because my ID was not state issued but instead from the Mexican Consulate. It was green and unfamiliar, and most of the time it wasn’t worth the confused look on the door guy’s face trying to find my birth date before inevitably informing me I wasn’t allowed in without a valid form of I.D.

When marriage equality finally happened, I felt validated because I’d marched the marches; I’d protested in every protest; I’d held up the signs. It was so gratifying I never even noticed that the same faces from the protests for LGBTQ rights were missing at the ones for immigration reform.

But DACA eventually came into effect and it seemed like progress. Some of us were allowed work permits and a Driver’s License for the low, low price of $500 every two yearsnot including attorney fees. Well, that was nice while it lasted.

My time in this country has been limited to two final years by a tiny laminated card, and a man with even smaller principles. When President Obama signed DACA eight years ago, it was if not a light at the end of the tunnel, a very shiny, bright glimmer. For a moment there was security on some level, though not without its restrictions.

Traveling, for example, is limited to work or school related trips, and there is a petition to be made beforehand, along with a hefty additional fee. In addition, DACA does not provide a pathway toward citizenship, in effect locking its applicants within a status of illegality with a very slight exception. There are approximately 800,000 of us working and contributing to the economy daily, and everyday thousands of us are being stripped of our status and have been left with nothing but uncertainty in its place–I myself have renewed my work permit for what is potentially the last time in late November.

Still, little is said in mainstream media, and even less amongst the LGBTQ community.

I can count on one hand specific recollections I have of Mexico, where I was born, and some of those are only half memories. I was nine when I left; I’m 32 now and I haven’t been back since, so I can’t begin to imagine I’ll feel at home there if I’m forced to return.

My Spanish is great, but it’s not perfect. How exactly does an introverted lesbian go about starting all over again in a small, traditional, deeply Catholic Mexican town? I don’t know, but I liked it when my daily struggles consisted of getting control of my slight accent while being careful to not roll my Rs when speaking in English.

Here’s one thing I’d like people to understand: Getting rid of DACA isn’t about safety, or conserving some American ideal, or even about immigration at the end of the day, because getting rid of DACA kicks Americans out of their home and drops them into an environment that hasn’t been familiar in a long time, if ever. It goes without saying that it’s been a rough year for everyone in the U.S. that is not a white, heterosexual male. I am sympathetic. But as I stand at the tipping point, I look around and realize that my LGBTQ family, for the most part, have no idea or don’t care enough to fight for those of us who have been left out of the equation because of our legal status.

When the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Club was founded in my high school, there was no support group for undocumented students, no outreach programs, nor were we ever even acknowledged, not in the alliance clubs, not in known gay clubsthe hub of the underdog where our Matriculas weren’t even recognized as valid I.D. We were turned away from the places that were supposed to be havens. They were not havens, not safe placesnot for us, because we were practically non-existent. Now, as we face the end of what we had once taken as a small beginning, the LGBTQ community still remains relatively silent on immigration issues, save for the occasional murmur when it’s a trending topic.

I will admit we are a silent group ourselves, because silence has been the norm in our upbringing due to fear of exposure and extraction, of deportation. Being gay and undocumented is a closet within a closet, but we have been out and loud for years now and still, our issues are solely our own.

Before DACA, I worked illegally, I went to school without financial aid, and I drove without a license. I know what it’s like to live in fear and to have paranoia sewed into the fabric of my upbringing. Simple things caused anxiety, like being carded at a concert and getting that look from the bouncer, deciding whether or not he’s going to give me a stupid wristband so I can get a beer at the bar. I don’t think I’ll ever not automatically begin to sweat when I see a cop car with its siren on approaching behind me, even if I’m doing nothing wrong.

Knowing I may very well return to that in just two years’ time is frightening because I no longer have the luxury of anonymity. Before DACA I wasn’t in the systemthere was no real way of tracking meand now I, along with hundreds of thousands more will be a hell of a lot more vulnerable because eight years ago we were made a promise that we would be protected. And now that promise is practically irrelevant.

I was in a couple of relationships before DACA with women to whom I felt I had to disclose my status once they became serious, because I couldn’t do certain things, like take an impromptu trip to Mexico, cheap as it may be to vacation there, and I came to dread that talk. It was difficult for them to grasp the concept that their X-Files obsessed, U2-loving, tattooed girlfriend was the job stealing immigrant Republicans warned them about.

We need to end that stereotype, and we need to call out our people when they make light of it. We’re not a joke, and we’re not a hypothetical. We were in the shadows, and now we are being shoved back. We need the support of the LGBTQ community because we are a part of it. The laissez-faire attitude toward issues on immigration reform progress and lack thereof is troubling, and for a while made me feel resentful toward the queer community, because my voice was appreciated only when it benefited those without worries of deportation.

My only hope is that it doesn’t remain that way forever and that immigration reform comes to the forefront of the fight for queer rights because a lot of us might not be here much longer, an estimated 75,000 of us that include artists, Doctors, attorneys, and activists like Catalina Velasquez, who in 2008 was the first Undocumented Trans person to attend Georgetown, and 2013 became the first Immigrant Trans Latina appointed as commissioner for the Office of Latino Affairs in D.C.

We love our queer celebrities and politicians. We love seeing them thrive because they represent us. When they move up, we move up. Queer DREAMers are thriving in every field. And if we are gone, our representation is shortened by 75,000. That’s support none of us can afford afford to lose.

Image via Getty

Church of Sweden Denies Banning Pastors From Calling God By Male Pronouns: ‘That’s Fake News’

The Church of Sweden is distancing itself from reports it ordered clergy members to stop referring to God as either “he” or “him.”

News outlets around the world have alleged the Evangelical Lutheran entity would be banning male pronouns in its services in favor of gender-neutral terminology. But in a Friday phone interview with INTO, the Uppsala-based church claims those reports have been misinterpreted by foreign press.

“That’s fake news that has been circulated abroad,” says Martin Larsson, a press secretary for the Church of Sweden.

In November, the church adopted a new book of worship. Larsson says the update gave pastors “more options” when referring to the Christian deity than previous texts. The opening of Sunday service commonly begins with the phrase “the father, the son, and the holy spirit,” but clergy members now have the choice of saying “in the name of the triune god” instead.

Another example is calling the higher power “God” instead of “The Lord.”

But Larsson cautions about projecting contemporary discussions about gender identity into the changes. Although the word “lord” might have a strongly masculine connotation in the U.S. and the U.K., he claims the Swedish equivalent (“herren”) is “very connected to the church” and has a “slightly archaic touch to it.”

“It’s not a word used by everyday man to express [his] personal belief in or relationship with God,” he clarifies in an email to INTO.

Many more radical changes in how the Church of Sweden genders the divine were actually rejected during the November meeting of its guiding body. There’s a passage in church liturgy which Larsson says is traditionally sung: “You are to us a father, a father.” Some members of the church body wanted to change it to “a father and a mother” instead. He claims the proposal was voted down.

When INTO asked how the news was so widely mischaracterized, Larsson couldn’t provide an easy answer. He traced the report to a Danish newspaper who told him they picked the story up from a Christian publication in the country. But nothing in that version of the story attested to claims of a ban on masculine pronouns.

“We have two Danish newspapers referring to each other,” Larsson says in a slightly teasing tone.

The spokesman, unprompted by INTO, repeatedly singled out a particular story on the changes from PBS Newshour, the hour-long program aired on the Public Broadcasting System. In a Dec. 26 broadcast, correspondent Hari Sreenivasan alleges the church “recently decided its clergy should stop describing God in masculine terms, such as he, and instead use more gender-neutral language.”

The report quotes several officials with the church, including Lund Cathedral Chaplain Lena Sjostrand and Uppsala Archbishop Antje Jackelen. Sjostrand told PBS that she doesn’t think “God is a big mother or a father sitting up in the sky.”

But Larsson wasn’t pleased with the presentation, to say the least.

“He misleads the viewers by saying that Sweden has forbidden pastors and clergy not to use masculine terms,” Larsson claims. “That is totally wrong. Masculine terms still dominate in the Church of Sweden. The pronouns ‘he’ and ‘him’ are [used very frequently]. They are not in any way being washed away.”

“That story in PBS might be easily misunderstood by viewers who don’t have the whole picture,” he adds.

The Church of Sweden does not deny that updates to the book of worship were intended to be more gender-inclusive, attributing the push for inclusion to the “strong” feminist movement in Sweden over the past three decades. But Larsson says the changes were designed to encompass a range of perspectives during changing times, including children and LGBTQ people.

What readers won’t find in the book of worship, however, are gender-neutral pronouns. Although a church in the town of Västerås used the pronoun “hen” to refer to Jesus in advertising for its Christmas services, it is not mentioned in the official handbook.

The pronoun, frequently used by nonbinary and transgender people, was added to Sweden’s official dictionary in 2015.

When INTO asked Larsson if the new worship books described God using female pronouns, he responded that he wasn’t sure at the moment. “I haven’t quite gotten the thick book,” he claims. “I won’t swear that there are no female pronouns.”

But the spokesperson didn’t deny that the changes reflect a continuously evolving theories of a greater power.

“God can be said to include both male and female perspectives,” Larsson says of the church’s theology. “When we say God, we refer to something beyond gender. That perhaps is something more striking outside Sweden than it is in Sweden.”

The changes are set to go into effect on May 20.

Former Member Gabriel Maldonado Speaks On the Dismissal of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS

On Wednesday morning, Gabriel Maldonado received a letter from the Trump administration dismissing him from the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. All 16 remaining members of the council received letters as well.

Maldonado, 28, was the youngest member of the council. He was appointed in 2015, and his tenure was meant to last until the end of 2018.

According to Maldonado, who is alsoCEO of the California-based HIV/AIDS service organization TruEvolution,the dismissalletter was “very sterile.”

“[It] was very apathetic and dry,” Maldonado tells INTO. “It was not only a professional dismissal, but it felt like a personal dismissal as well. It felt like the work we had done did not warrant our service even though we had been on the council one year into the administration.”

Maldona added that the council had been putting together action plans and recommendations throughout the last year. He had taken time away from other projects to work with the council, which he now feels are moot.

“So, over the last year,” he says, “what have I been doing?”

During his time on the council, Maldonado was co-chair of the disparities committee, a group that made policy recommendations regarding groups that are vulnerable to HIV infection or negative health outcomes after diagnosis, such as LGBTQ people, people of color, people without homes, and youth. In 2016, the group put on a stigma summit that addressed the cyclical nature of HIV stigma and how it fueled high infection rates in vulnerable populations.

Prior to the council’s dismissal, Maldonado said that the council’s interactions with the administration were “pleasant,” though it was clear that the council had a different ideology toward public health than the administration. For one, many members of the council were part of crafting the Affordable Care Act and were at odds with an administration actively trying to dismantle Barack Obama’s signature legislative victory.

For Maldonado, this spoke to a difference in bedrock public health principles.

“We’re not even starting from the same place,” Maldonado says. “It’s a lot more serious then it just being a difference in philosophy or a difference in ideology. How we prioritize communities, whether we believe in abstinence-only or harm reduction, whether we believe in needle exchange verse criminalizing those who are drug users. Whether we believe in communities of color a one-size-fits-all approach.”

“Your philosophy makes a dramatic difference in the outcome for the policies that you push and promote,” he adds.

Maldonado also points to the recent controversy surrounding the Centers for Disease Control being told not use several wordsincluding “transgender,” “evidence-based” and “science-based”as proof of root-level ideological differences.

According to Maldonado, the letter of dismissal he received was the first time the White House communicated with him personally. All other correspondence had been to PACHA as a whole.

“We were putting together action plans for the next few years ahead,” he says. “If I had known I was getting dismissed, I wouldn’t have put in such an investment. To be dismissed abruptly without any forewarning is also a dismissal of all the work I’ve done over the last year.”

When asked what he thought about an October Washington Blade report that Trump was seeking gay Republican to fill seats on PACHA, Maldonado warned about assembling a partisan body to fight the epidemic.

“Any time you place partisanship at the forefront in your appointments when it comes to a widespread public health epidemic, you’re already molding the conversation to be a single train of thought,” Maldonado says.

Maldonado warned against employing a “single type of ideology” to fight an epidemic that is affecting people from a wide range of socioeconomic and political backgrounds.

Now that Maldonado has more time on his hands, he says he’s ready to turn his attention to statewide advocacy for Californians living with or at risk of acquiring HIV.

“Our state needs to rise up and help those of us living with HIV,” he says. “They can’t forget us even if the federal government doesn’t supply all the resources necessary to support us.”

Photos courtesyGabriel Maldonado

Oregon Rules Lesbian Couple Will Still Receive Reparations From Homophobic Bakery

A bakery in Oregon will be required to pay a $135,000 fine for denying a wedding cake to a lesbian couple following an appeals court ruling on Thursday.

The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld an earlier judgment against Aaron and Melissa Klein of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, who claim that providing wedding-related services to same-sex couples contravenes their faith beliefs. Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer ordered a cake from the Kleins in 2013 and were turned away. The Bureau of Labor Disputes found in January 2014 that the Christian couple had trespassed the state’s nondiscrimination codes in doing so.

This case has been tied up in the court system so long neither the state of Oregon nor the U.S. Supreme Court had legalized marriage equality when the suit was originally filed. Oregon didn’t recognize same-sex unions until 2014, and the nation followed suit a year later.

The Bowman-Cryers celebrated the verdict as long-overdue vindication.

“It does not matter how you were born or who you love,” the couple claimed in a statement. “All of us are equal under the law and should be treated equally. Oregon will not allow a ‘Straight Couples Only’ sign to be hung in bakeries or other stores.”

But one favorable aspect of Thursday’s ruling for the Kleins is that the appeals court, which first heard the case nine months ago, reversed a key claim from the Bureau of Labor Disputes. The board had argued the couple “violated Oregon law by communicating their intent to discriminate against same-sex couples in the future.” The Court of Appeals disagreed with that finding.

First Liberty Institute, which represented the Christian bakers in court, claimed that it will continue to appeal the case.

“Freedom of expression for ourselves should require freedom of expression for others. Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided that Aaron and Melissa Klein are not entitled to the Constitution’s promises of religious liberty and free speech,” Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, said in a press release. “In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs.”

The self-avowed “religious liberty” organization, which is based in Plano, Texas, may not need to continue the crusade.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments earlier this month in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a nearly identical case out of Colorado. It’s one of several outstanding legal battles over whether wedding cakes should be protected under the First Amendment as artistic expression.

The SCOTUS case will be decided as early as June 2018.

Although the Kleins were forced to shutter Sweet Cakes by Melissa as a result of the judgment, they have had a second life as cause célèbres of the religious right. The couple successfully netted more than $500,000 from supporters through a crowdfunding campaign, in which they cited financial fallout arising from the 2013 complaint. The fine is not even a third of that amount.

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